A few months ago I was working on a particularly complex, frustrating and taxing project and during a conversation with the company CIO he said something that stopped me dead in my tracks and made me re-evaluate a few things. He said : ‚Don’t worry, it’s not personal. It’s business.‛ I have heard that expression used often enough and I must admit I’ve never really warmed to it. This time it actually made me sad. I was asked to step in and manage a project that was based in Wellington ‌ and I live in Auckland. ( That’s about the equivalent of Durban to Jo’burg.) Which meant a very early flight out of Auckland on Monday morning and a very late flight back on Friday afternoon. It meant evenings in a non-descript hotel room sitting with my laptop and eating room service. But mostly it meant being away from my husband. Oh, I know, the tragedy of the situation! Don’t worry, I’m not looking for sympathy here! In fact, I’m sure that many of you have been in similar or worse situations where you have been away from home for lengthy absences. My point is that I was making very PERSONAL sacrifices to do this job, so I really didn’t understand the maxim: ‘It’s not personal, it’s business.’ I don’t know about you, but time away from my family is very personal to me. So when the person I work for doesn’t understand that � I’m very worried.
You see, in today’s business world, I think that saying is not just outdated � it’s offence and shows a very real lack of understanding about these shifting times. I’ve also noticed that there are plenty of people out there who have taken on the maxim as a modus operandi. Somehow, they seem to think that it gives them licence to be rude, to humiliate, to abuse, to manipulate and even to cheat. It’s as if you can throw ethics and goodwill out the window because ‚it’s not personal, it’s business.‛ A friend of mine works in IT and was telling me a story the other day about how she had been working on a ‚mission critical‛ client demo which had entailed 14 hour days + for a week. She didn’t mind that so much, it didn’t bother her that she had to cancel dinner with her parents, skip gym for the week or miss speaking to her partner for a week because by the time she got home he was asleep � I mean sacrifice is part of the job right? What did bother her was the fact that an email had gone around the company after the successful demo thanking those involved � and it had left her name off the list and only mentioned her team leader. Frankly, I think she has every right to feel disappointed. She wasn’t asking to be paid overtime, she wasn’t asking for a promotion or a salary increase � all she wanted was the smallest amount of recognition for her TIME. She wanted some one to say ‚Thank You.‛ I think on some level we all come to work to make a difference. We want to be recognised for our contribution and know that we have made a difference. I care about my work � it says something about me to the people I interact with. It says: This is how I choose to spend my time. This is how I want to contribute. This is my talent. This is what I want to achieve. If that’s not personal � what is? Business is made up of an organisation of people. People are persons. Doesn’t that make business personal?
Today is all about the ‚connection economy‛ and if we really want to connect with people we have to understand what’s important to them. I recently read an article in Fast Company (Dec 2004) entitled ‚Doing your Research‛ whereby the author stressed the value in ‚getting to know your client‛ on a personal level. Actually researching that person to find out what is important to them and how they spend their time, and then trying to connect with them on a more personal level. Because isn’t that what life is really about � making connections with people, whether it be business or personal? I love that idea! Time is such a precious commodity � our society is all about quicker, faster , cheaper. However, if we don’t find the time to say ‚thank you‛ or connect with people then our relationships are going to become ‚quicker, faster, cheaper‛ as well. Building a connection economy means investing time in people. The ‚connection economy‛ means that business IS personal.
Business has become even more personal if we consider just how valuable consumer information is. Almost every time you register online you are being asked how much you earn, what your hobbies are, what you like to spend your money on, you age, your ethnicity, you address and contact details. Pretty personal information wouldn’t you say? Nowadays there are ‚Information Brokers‛, people who make it their business to gather personal information on someone and on sell it. Marketing campaigns are often driven using personal data which allows better product targeting. In the United State the Federal Trade Commission even have some helpful hints for the consumer to ‚Just say No‛ and protect their privacy and personal information. According to them , ‚Sharing your Personal Information: It’s Your Choice‛. There’s a whole section dedicated to this topic on their website.
If you ask me, I think that ‚It’s not personal, it’s business‛ is one expression that can get binned in 2005. And on a personal note � I hope that everyone is having a marvellous month!
Simone Bresser is pursuing life as a “globe-trotter” and currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand where she is based to explore Asia Pacific and gain a better understanding of the diverse cultures of this region. She is studying at the prestigious University of Life Experience where she hopes to gain a masters degree in “Answers to the Universe and Other Important Stuff.”
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